Archive for April, 2013

Peek into my World, my Words…

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My workstation – Ethereal beauty to get the story moving…
And some clutter, because that’s what my head is like…and I hate cleaning.

Quite a few of you will have clocked on to the fact I’m writing a novel by now- I’ve talked about word counts enough in my twitter feed and even on facebook. I’m two and a half weeks in and toying with the title ‘While I Slept’.

This is a peek into my creation with a few snippets. I’ll try to keep major spoilers at bay (in case you ever actually want to read the thing once I’m done tinkering with it).

A Blurb of Sorts…

Annie Vivant’s hobby is archaeology and, one sunny day of digging, she finds and awakens Arthur. Arthur is not the King of modern legend but the unparalleled warrior of older myth who defends the United Kingdom from the Otherworld – a land of redcaps, piskies, dev and all the other impossibles that don’t get along. After a series of bloody murders, Arthur realises why he has been awoken and must traverse Otherworld politics where no one is to be trusted for nothing. All the while, his old, blonde love, Katrin, plagues his mind.

A Side Note:

There’s space for comedy as well as crime and fantasy in this novel. Arthur does not understand technology, the world of today, and Annie has no clue how the Otherworld functions. The results are sometimes entertaining and sometimes disastrous.

Enjoy your three rifts into my novel below!

A Few Mini Extracts:

The coffin creaked behind her as soil from its top fell away, scuttling down the hill. She couldn’t just leave it. It was the next big find, the first English mummy or a serial killer’s personal graveyard. She considered it: ‘Artie’, no last name, date, anything. Who was he? A pet or human? Was he buried with treasure? A diary? She sniggered – a spell book maybe?

She had to know.

She clicked something on a long, light stick I’d explored the previous night. A screen on the other side of the room flickered and brought light into the room. She had told me it was a remote. I learned to leave it to her: all the pressy bits and symbols meant nothing to me. When I tried, all I got was a black and white fuzz and an annoying buzz.

Moving pictures and people opened and closed their mouths. Sound came out of the box. She’d assured me it was normal and relegated my sword to her room when I’d tried to attack it. Still, it was weird, unnatural. The TV, as she called it, droned on. It appeared to be some sort of update or news.

I smiled but poked her side to make her calm down: this was serious. ‘There must be something that’s happened. Some big nationwide event or war or battle…’ I thought about the clash of swords and arc of blood, rich on grass and trampled underfoot. ‘Even a little skirmish?’ I missed a good skirmish, a punch to the face and a cold bag of water over an eye. It hurt, sure, but it was a great way to settle who was the better fighter.

‘Don’t think so. America is trigger happy as always but that’s nothing new. There’s been a few wars. You missed the two big ones.’ She grinned as if sharing a private joke with the air. ‘Surprised you didn’t wake up for those, actually…. Anyway, yeah, there’s nothing big.’

I ignored the mention of triggers. I assumed it was some new club or metal that could flip down in some way and cause more damage from the swing. Maybe that was why these people looked so weak in comparison to the old days. They might not need the muscle. 

And Some Teasers:

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While you try (or give up) wondering what those three add up to, I will be writing more. Hopefully I have captivated a few of you and if not, well, there’s more to write yet. Including some more battle scenes!

I hope you enjoyed the peek into my world. 17,287 words and counting.

Happy writing!
Let me know about your projects or mine if there’s anything you have enjoyed or hated here.

Signing out,

Holly Ice – just another author like the rest of you. 🙂

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Charity Shop Treasures

This Tuesday just gone me and a few of my house mates travelled into town for ‘CharityShopShopping!’ as I love to enthuse.

Of course, I found some clothes: 2 dresses, and 3 tops, but the major find was the books.

Here’s a little pic:

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(As when I first pick them  up off the shelves, I find it hard to stop hoarding them to my chest. I just can’t let go – partly ’cause it usually means they all fall to the floor with a thunk. Currently they’re in a haphazard pile on my bed, awaiting a read). Maybe someone with a good editing programme can turn this into an inspirational wallpaper of some sorts/illustrate over the top.

I think I found a good mix of crime and fantasy, even a great book on dream symbolism. Most people may think that a little odd, but it’s going to be really useful when I try to create worlds and new cultures. They have to have symbolism come from somewhere! The avenues open to us in books on the occult and fantasy are almost limitless. Then there’s real life to boot – superstitions, looks, fashion, taboos, food…

Here’s a list of the books and their authors. I think I picked most up for around £1.

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  1. ‘The Lovely Bones’ – Alice Sebold (Have heard it’s a good book and intend to do my own research). 
  2. ‘The Mermaids Singing’ – Val McDermid (A serial killer crime book. The blurb caught me: ‘You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…’)
  3. ‘The Calling’ – Inger Ash Wolfe (First found the author’s name interesting and the grimy cover pretty cool. Then I was interested by a handicapped detective and a body with a ‘mouth moulded into a strangely meaningful shape’).
  4. ‘Three Great Novels – The lost years – Let it Bleed, Black & Blue, The Hanging Garden’ – Ian Rankin. (Three novels in one. How could I resist? Also I’ve read Rankin’s books in a holiday destination’s bookcase and rather enjoyed them so needed more).
  5. ‘Blue Moon’ – Alyson Noel. (Looked familiar. Turns out I’ve probably read this particular novel in the series in ebook format but I don’t remember the plot that well so no worries. Onward reading!)
  6. ‘Ink Exchange’ – Melissa Marr. (Not going to lie – this really was a case of a stunning cover. Then  I looked on the back and eyes and wings pulled me forward. It sounds like a dark tale full of mystery. Can’t wait to get to it!)
  7. ‘The Complete book of Dreams’ – Edwin Raphael. (A great reference book to add to my home library as I build my writer’s den. It looks good from what I’ve looked up so far although a skunk was woefully absent, as was sex. Interesting.)
  8. ‘Advent’ – James Treadwell. (Okay so I bought this book online but it WAS in the charity shop as well when I went out. This is the one I’m reading at the moment. Again, it has a great cover but, more than that, is represented by the Janklow and Nesbit agency and I met one of their agents at the London Book Fair. Also, it just sounded like my kind of read. Magic is on the loose, people see things that aren’t there and cannot conform to the modern day).

Needless to say, my backpack was rather heavy after buying all this! Very much worth it though.
Once I’ve given these a good read I’ll be sure to report back on their contents.

If you know of any great books then please message me, especially if these are great writing references. I need more of those!

Also, if you like fantasy or crime, I’m currently writing a novel which is a blend of both. I’m toying with the title ‘While I Slept’.
My next post will have snippets of the text and some character info most likely but if you want to keep on top of my progress then I’m recording it on twitter almost daily: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Hope you are all well and reading/writing to your heart’s content.

The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure – Michael O’Byrne

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I read this book because I have no idea about the police system and yet will be including bits of it for my next novel.

It’s actually quite good, even if you don’t write pure crime. It gives you the levels and names of police bureaucracy as well as how procedures work. It told me what numbers of people work on crimes, rapes and ordinary offences as well as how suspension, bad jobs, punishment etc works in the police force.

It expelled a lot of the myths which fiction and TV has created around suspension and office hates etc. Some however, like badly looked on people getting all the boring or horrible jobs, is true.

The only thing this book has none of is the comradery and how people act with each other in the police. This we have to create by ourselves it seems. However, at least now we can do it with the right name tags and equipment (there are also sections on forensics and police databases).

A good read for those, like me, that are clueless about the inner workings of the force.

Doesn’t take too long to get through either. About a day or a day and a bit in sections.

I’d give it a 4/5.

The Suits and the Birds – London Book Fair 2013

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So, this is London. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Having never been to London before, it’s amazing how side streets can actually be quiet. In my room at the hostel I could even hear birds singing! Astounding.

Anyway, on to business. The London Book Fair 2013 was my first book fair. I was shocked to see so many suits! For a creative industry, it has a huge number of corporate bodies, busy grey and black bees on their way to one deal or another. It was a maze of exhibits with unfriendly faces and money people. There wasn’t too much colour, creativity or jeans until I reached the author lounge – my haven.

As other writers have tried to suggest, some authors obviously had no idea this is an “industry to industry” event. However, the other view I’ve picked up on in the media, that all/most writers attending are self published, is incorrect.

Sure, originally this event was purely business to business but in these digital times things are changing. The Author Lounge at the fair was packed for most seminars and workshops and many authors were getting a flavour for what is out there. I met a lot of people going into a new career and viewing the ley of the land as well as a few young novelists like myself looking for information and guidance.

I have to say, I think in the future this area shall have to be expanded. There was rarely enough room for everyone who wanted to watch the seminars! This must prove that authors, whether the business likes it or not, are becoming a bigger factor at the fair. Perhaps we need an entirely different area and perhaps not but a combination of self published authors and the curious is increasing attendance at the event.

I, for one, avoided the plethora of stands in Earls Court Hall 1, recognising that the people here didn’t really care about my concerns or questions as an author. Instead I attended a number of seminars over the three days and used my time to meet new people which was my original aim – publishers aren’t going to want to talk to lil ol’ me directly. They have agents for that.

Social Media – Tweet Tweet

I have learnt through the seminars that social media presence is of great significance to the business. It is free marketing and generates sales. Authors now need a brand, common themes across all their online presences, and they need to build an audience. The best way to do this, constantly repeated, was consistency. However, other tips included talking around the topic. Therefore, if you write books, then what would readers of your books like to know about? Fairytales? Mythology? Dreams? Love? Philosophy? Funny quotes? Cats?

That’s basically a ‘know your audience’ but also a caveat against the many who use social media to say: buymybook buymybook buymybook – that is, until we reach out to that beautiful ‘unfollow’ button and are released from the chant.

It also seems that reviews gain you an audience and a number of people through the industry ready to give you a pat on the back in return once you bring out your own books or poetry etc. Make the most of the contacts you’ve got! RT people to give them exposure, favourite tweets you like and share your friends’ successes.

This leads on to another key point that was made: interact! People don’t want a constant broadcast of what you’re up to and your thoughts, as interesting as you might be. This doesn’t promote you and your ideas to new audiences. Find people by the discover button in twitter that may be talking about things you like. Share interests with people, talk to them, and get discussions moving. This is a conversation, not a soapbox.

The danger in social media however, as the authors during the Authors on Social Media talk made clear, is complete immersion. Particularly for authors of longer works, we need to save some of our time for writing! We can’t market and market alone however we cannot write and write alone. Suggestions included limiting yourself to hour long windows 1-3 times a day or occasional peeks at the stream when a free minute appears.

Brand

I also attended a lecture on constructing author brand. Like it or not, we are a ‘tin of baked beans’. We have an image and we have a product to sell. To do this, we have to present ourselves as well as possible. This is the challenge. We were shown pictures of the book covers and photographs of Rick Riordan and Jilly Cooper. We worked on three words that described them and their brand. Then we had to pick three words for ourselves – nightmare!

We moved around the room, finding partners, and shared the three words we’d picked out of the air to get feedback. I chose ‘Dark/restrictions, relationships and the uknown’. One of my partners refined dark – he said that in my eyes when I talk about the unknown there is a danger or threat, a knowing older than my years. I found this interesting – the man certainly had insight! Most my stories have a lingering threat so it was in fact accurate. I then changed my three to Danger, The Unknown and Relationships. This is closer to my brand or ‘essence’ as us more creative types would prefer, but I still need to refine it.

I just have to keep in my head that this is only marketing. This is not my life, my whole worth as a human being. I am, as a granta speaker said, writing to communicate with someone not now but once they pick up the story. I am part of a magical exchange of worth and meaning. This marketing tripe is just how I get to people, how I can promote myself to affect people in as good a way as I’m able.

Self Publishing

A tricky subject. On going to the fair, I was mainly interested in the business and networking – finding more people that write and do things I like, people of ‘like mind’. I had thought, like three years ago, that self publishing was still badly looked upon by the business. I had thought self published authors stood little chance of getting a traditional deal. However, I was proved wrong.

It seems self publishing has become yet another filtering process for publishers, just like agents are. In fact, it could be said self publishing is a filtering process for agents! Stories high up in the popularity charts or those with great sell figures are often picked up on by agents/publishers and looked at more closely than they ever would have been if submitted without a ‘track record’ of sales.

This is obviously a great opportunity for new writers getting little attention. They can bring their stories closer to the top of the pile with proven interest. However, getting a book out as a hard copy through self publishing is likely to cost a few bob. I would have liked to, had I gone the self publishing route but on learning it costs from £200 to £25,000 I think I’ll avoid it!

In fact, with all the talk of marketing, numbers, audience, sales and the press, I’ve made one decision: I need an agent. I need someone who will support me as a young author and show me the business as a friend rather than a smiling shark eyeing the meat of my juicy story with pound signs in its eyes.

How to get published and How to get an agent

I talked to three people who gave me expert advice during the fair. Funnily enough, it was one person a day!

The first was Leila Dewji from Acorn Publishing. I told her I want to get into editing as a job but also want to get my novels out there.
She suggested that work experience and internships are the best method of getting into publishing

However, novels have two routes and in either its best that i write in series (readers like series as the world continues and publishers like them because they sell and retain an audience).
Route One: Self publish the first book in the series as an Ebook and promote the hell out of it. Get sales and then approach agents and publishers.
Route Two: Go the traditional route. Find an agent and let them negotiate a deal with publishers. This is, of course, a harder and longer route to take.

This is information from one conville and walsh’ reader:

I have the greatest respect for each and every author who submits to us, and I do read every submission. The process at Conville and Walsh is that out of two hundred submissions each month, I recommend between 6 and 10 for the agents to follow up. Out of this shortlist, perhaps two authors will be asked to submit their full manuscripts to the agents.
Of the authors who are asked to forward us their full manuscripts, possibly three to four a year will get through to publication.

Obviously, the gatekeepers to the publishing world don’t take on much of what they get!

This brings me on to what I was told at the ‘how to get an agent’ seminar:

  • Do exactly what they tell you do when when you submit. The right number of words/pages/cover letter/info etc
  • Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is as good as you can make it and
  • Ensure your cover letter is specific to that organisation, perhaps mentioning why you feel they are a great fit for you and your book.
  • Always be polite and to the point.

I met two agents during my time at the fair. One by happy accident and one intentionally. I met Hellie Ogden from Janklow and Nesbit after hearing her talk during The Future of Literary Agents seminar. I told her about myself, the genre I write in, and how it seems, to my age group, that the industry is unapproachable, mostly closed off to new clients, particularly in fantasy and sci-fi as most in the UK won’t touch us with a barge pole.

Hellie was incredibly generous and kind towards me, offering to read my work once I’ve started on it ( I plan to write a novel this summer). I also noticed her mentioning to others in the queue to go ahead and send their stuff.

I take this to mean the industry is not closed to everyone! (Thank god). I intend, once my work is finished, to go ahead and send it out to agents. I’ve written novels before and been too put off by the closed nature of agents to send them anywhere, worrying about whether they’re perfect enough. The message at this seminar however was very clear: A good book will always get through.

So, that’s what I intend to write and send off: as good a book as I can create.

The other agent I met was on my last day. I attended the seminar How to get an agent and received a raffle ticket on entering. I was confused. Were we getting a prize? Was it chocolate? Oh, god, let it be chocolate! The seminar was very quick, covering all the main points within 15 minutes. I struggled to keep up! My hand was cramping across the page. I can only just read the scribbles I scrawled.

Then she stopped and said they’d be calling us up in groups of four to talk to agents and pitch our ideas.

What!

At that point, I understood the significance of the raffle tickets. It was better than chocolate!
I used the time till my number was called talking to the people around me and decided I was going to pitch the idea I intend to write my novel on over the summer.

I was partnered with Thomas Stofer for the pitch and he gave me some brilliant advice. It turns out my age group assessment for my audience was bang on ( I was chuffed I got something right!). He also suggested changing one of my characters from a male to a female and to definitely add the sub plot of romance I had considered before and dithered over. This was great market advice on his part (over 60% of book buyers are female and I needed to appeal to this audience).

It was a great high on which to begin the last day and, I have to say, I am inspired!

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad I went to this “industry to industry” event. I do see it changing in future years and becoming more welcoming towards authors as we gain more power in the market place. I feel London Book Fair is a brilliant place to meet other enthusiastic and impassioned people. I’ve received some great advice and now know some of the places I’ve been going wrong as well as what I’ve done right. It’s expert input on where I am and where I’m going.

I can’t wait to get there!

If you went to the London Book Fair as well let me know – we might even get on. Add me on twitter or follow me on here and direct me to your blog/twitter as well. I’m keen to meet more of you and create my own little online community of writers and lovers of writing.

For now, it’s time to get this book in progress!

London Book Fair 2013

I just got back from the London Book Fair this evening. I’m knackered but still awake thinking of all the things I shall be putting into practice. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do with social media but also what I’m doing wrong. As an author, I need a brand that represents what I’m about as a writer. Some of the seminars have made this clear and helped me understand where to start.

Also, I’ve been lucky enough to receive input from an agent on my novel idea which I’m starting over the summer as well as great support from another generous agent. I met some great authors and small publishers, too – many friendly faces!

All in all, London was a great adventure and I shall post a more detailed list of my experiences and action plan once I’ve had some well-deserved sleep in the peace of privacy. (Hostels and exhibits don’t allow for private hermit introverted author time).

My twitter if you fancy grabbing a few more personal details: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Frustration – We Create Our Own Enemies

It’s when you sit and stare at the stupid blinking cursor that you know something is wrong. I had this the other day and the screen just didn’t help. Games helped my mood but, of course, not my writing. I’m looking at you, TERA.

In the end I got some inspiration late at night/early morning and wrote what I came up with down on paper. It helped a lot. Sometimes I find changing medium is the most useful thing you can do to force your mind to work.

I mean, this is my room before a night out:

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It’s pretty much what my head looks like when I try to get ideas together in my head. Like the clothes into an outfit, sometimes things just don’t work. The tights are the wrong colour, the top too baggy, the trousers too hot, too tight.

It’s the same when I write. In the end, I give up and think of a first sentence, something that will (hopefully) draw people in. The story I’m writing at the moment begins ‘Planes are just like buses, after a while’.

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For me, this gave me the character, the voice, needed to blindly stumble through the next plot points. It works for me because I’ve found I just can’t make more than two/three decisions in my mind. It’s like playing chess more than three moves ahead. My mind blanks – there’s far too many things that can happen in that time. Characters are not obedient little puppets; they are your opponent, sat across from you and planning your downfall.

Little diabolical, but that’s how I see it. Each start to a story and each completed story is a victory for me against the character that doesn’t want to be written and that cursor.

Who ever said writers are pacifists? We hurt characters and give them problems. We are Gods of our worlds and hardly very kind ones. I suppose it’s no wonder they fight back.

The Writing Update

So, after all that, I’m glad to say I have one story freshly sent off to an anthology – Alchemy Press’ Urban Mythic

and another which I’ve started for their Astrologica collection. (There’s still two weeks to enter this – closes 14th April at midnight PST). It comprises stories based/inspired by the star signs with added fantasy elements. Check it out.

Definitely not all bad. Wish me luck!

And my twitter 🙂

Signing out,

Holly Ice

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